It’s 12 hours to 2016 from where I am now, here in Athens, Ohio. Having celebrated the new year with my friends and family at home in Cambodia just now, I came up with an idea, a very good one, I hope. Why don’t I spend some time writing a narrative of what has been going on in my life since my last annual reflection blog post in 2013? I’m doing it now.
I skipped last year reflection because there were a lot going on in my life. In a sentence, 2014 was all about that one question: What was going to be next? It was the last year of my Master’s degree program, so I had to figure out what I should be doing next. As all of you may be able to relate, it was never an easy question. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find a job or continue my study. I guess I settled for the latter, but it took months of frustration to arrive at this final decision. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
There were some fun parts, of course, one of which would be my trip to Washington DC. I love art and design, and DC happens to be the center of museums, fortunately. VOA Khmer Service invited me to its headquarter and interviewed me about Cambodia’s digital media environment, which shocked me a little.
One fact, though, I celebrated the welcome of 2015 in New York City. Awesome, right? Yes, it was. The weather was perfect, too, at around 15 degree Celsius most of the time. It didn’t snow. I loved it. My friend took me around and we took a lot of photos. Couldn’t help but we are trained media practitioners. I reunited with my Singaporean friend who I met during an exchange program in Korea, too. We roamed New York City with cameras in hands.
When I got back to Ohio University after a week in NYC, I was ready to refocus my mind on serious matters. I was trying to finish my Master’s degree and at the same time get into a PhD program. I’m pleased to inform both were successfully taken care of, and I’m grateful for everyone who helped me along the way. I have the best professors who helped me with guidance on my MA professional project and recommendation letters for the PhD application. My boss, who I have been working for since 2014 as his web assistant, always encouraged me when I faced difficulties.
I launched Khmer Scholar soon after as part of my MA final project, and did an in-depth research on Cambodia’s political, socio-economical and media landscapes, looking to introduce Khmer Scholar as the first citizen journalism website in the kingdom. Both the website and the research were a success, which was evidenced by my Master’s degree. I hope my friends and family, especially my parents, are as proud as I am with this achievement. My mom and dad said they were thrilled.
It was, however, a challenging experience. Not only did I have to complete these two difficult tasks – building the website and writing the research paper – but I also had to prepare the PhD application and take the GRE test. See? There was no time for writing a reflection blog at that time. It was my fault. I should have been more organized and prepared, and less procrastinating. I said that to my dad and he told me I was just as human as I should be. He made a good point, but still I could have done better.
Everyone around me seemed to believe in me when I applied for the PhD program, yet I was completely feeling insecure. I appreciated their support. In fact, I thought I would not get admitted since there were so many other qualified applicants and it was a long, longer than usual, wait. I made it at the end and Ohio University is stuck with me for another 3 years at least.
I grow to love Athens, to be honest. It allows me to have a laser-sharp focus on my life as there is not a lot going on here. Nowadays, I go to class, lift a little bit at the gym and occasionally hang out with friends (they are crazy and definitely fun). I feel productive, healthy and in control. Where I come from has so many distractions, which I admit I miss sometimes as well. In May, I sought those distractions. Yes, I flew to Cambodia for the whole summer. Home sweet home. Family, friends, and of course FOOD!
Mom was pretty excited. She prepared my favorite dishes, knowing that I landed during lunch time. After some 30 hours of flying and layover at a few airports, I had the most awesome home-cooked meal after almost a year in the states. I rested well afterward.
Four months in Cambodia could be summarized into family times, internship, new friends and networks, new skills, and lots of parties. I had a great time. Let’s make it a gigantic blast for this one. I spent a week in Thailand, too, touring Bangkok, which was quite a bonus: Shopping, sadly. Probably the coolest thing I did was training several hundred staff members at a private company in Cambodia about Convergence Marketing. It went well, I think.
Summer almost ended and it was time to take that long, long flight again. I landed in Los Angeles and stayed in Long Beach for several days at my friend’s place. We went to the Alamitos beach in Long Beach, and travelled to Las Vegas for a weekend. I met up with a few other friends and hung out at Disneyland. It was my first time in the magical park, wishing that I had visited there at a much younger age. I was entertained, nevertheless!
Back to Athens in late August, school started. I was excited although I decided to take 17 credit hours for the first semester of my new program. Most of the students in my cohort did the same thing, surprisingly. We were suffering at times when deadlines collided, but we managed to survive at the end. I can’t speak for everyone, but I learnt that a complete focus on one thing at a time helped, and it did. I’m very happy with the final grades for this first semester. It was a good start of the program as I got straight A’s. I hope I can continue to maintain this momentum.
I still keep my job as the web assistant. I enjoy working with my colleagues. My boss got me an Iron Man figure for Christmas. I love Iron Man. Well, I was Tony Stark for two years in a row during the infamous Halloween Party in Athens. That means Avengers: Age of Ultron was one of the big deals in my 2015. I watched the film several times. Oh, geeky!
Part of my graduate assistantship scholarship, I was assigned to work with my inspiring academic advisor. He is doing something related to Space-Based Solar Energy. It’s so cool. I’m glad I had an opportunity to document his work and life through my video production class. My project partner and I did a profile piece about him in the following video.
Unfortunately, my advisor is retiring from teaching. I was lucky and honored to be in his last class. He, then, recommended me to take over his class “New Media and Communication Technologies,” and that’ll be one of the major things to come in my 2016 journey. I just finalized the class’ syllabus for the Spring semester with the help of my advisor. I’m quite excited and a bit nervous at the same time. One thing I know for sure is I love this subject. In my social media bio, you would see something like the intersection of media, technology and culture, and this class is going to allow me and the students to explore this intersection in an in-depth manner.
Finally, you are reading this article on my newly designed blog. If you have been following me on social media, you’d probably know I’ve been writing on multiple websites. I’ve been actually designing and building too many websites, I think. I’ve also been underinvesting time and effort in writing personal blog posts, I’m afraid. Forgive me, but I only needed to experiment so many things before I could come down to identifying the most effective organization of my personal projects. And for writing, I’ve done a lot of it for classes. Anyhow, from this moment on, I will be working on only three websites with three distinct purposes.
This is my portfolio website. It is the most personal online platform where I make available stories about my life, cool projects I work on, a complete resumé and possibly a freelance service. It will be the least sophisticated, and most minimally designed website among the three because it has to speak minimalism that I truly believe in as a beautiful way of life.
The website was officially launched on May 16, 2015 as the final professional project for my Master’s degree at Ohio University. It was designed to be the first citizen journalism website in Cambodia, the one-stop shop for everything Cambodia, and the collection of great minds to enlighten Cambodia. I’m writing for the website and also playing the role as the editor-in-chief.
This is my newest website whose purpose is to solely accommodate my passion for media, technology and culture. I plan to write and make videos about big ideas at the intersection of the three pillars. My PhD program in Mass Communication at Ohio University has a direct relation to how these three pillars interrelate, so I’m very excited to produce awesome content for this website.
There you have it, a brief of everything that happened in my life in 2014 and 2015. I was challenged on multiple fronts, but it was part of the fun, I guess. Or that’s just probably life. We’re always struggling unless we learn to enjoy the struggle. When things overwhelm us, just remember to embrace patience and persistence. As I mentioned earlier, being able to sharply focus on one thing at a time is really helpful.
I’m actually on my way to count down in Chicago right now. Happy new year, everyone. Let’s make 2016 a life-transforming journey. For me, I am going to sharply focus on transforming my body. Nothing can stop us when we have the will and well-formulated strategies. Be awesome, my readers!